Recently the globally acclaimed British rock band have performed a free concert in the Cuban capital, Havana. The uproar of it goes further than the history and present politics of socialist Cuba. In fact, it is somehow an indicator of Cuba’s shifting atmosphere, and what the future may have in store for the nation in the following years. The Rolling Stones are somehow representative of this transition process that Cuba has just started to undergo.
It was in the year 1959 that Fidel Castro took control of Cuba and eventually in 1961 he turned Cuba into a communist state. For years Cuba was closed off from globalisation, and thus things such as pop culture varied vastly in Cuba when compared to other nations that were rapidly growing and developing at the time. Part of the regime rejected capitalistic ideals, and thus rock was forbidden. The regime’s take on rock was that it would corrupt its people, because essentially people would suddenly begin to think outside the box, something which the communist regime didn’t desire. They wanted to isolate their people so much, that they didn’t want them to create such strong personalities that rock music could perhaps provide them with. Around the same time, the Rolling Stones were having their own revolution. It wasn’t only the Rolling Stones that were becoming part of this rebellious rock’N’roll, it was also the Beatles, and so Castro certainly didn’t want his people listening to music that could in essence open his people’s minds. Rock was banned. However, this has never stopped people from craving it… wanting to know what rock is really all about.
Flashback into the current years, where many Cubans are faced with this reality. The Rolling Stones are coming to town! For FREE! For many this is a fantasy becoming a reality, but others are not satisfied. Punk rock singer of Cuban band ‘Porno para Ricardo’, Gorki Águila, has shown some scepticism towards the Rolling Stone’s visit to Cuba, “If I could speak to them, I would tell them they are disrespecting the rights of artists in this country who are not able to express ourselves,” Gorki tells the Guardian.
Gorki has been arrested countless amounts of times due to his opinions and music that certainly do not keep Castro happy. “The tyrants here are trying to portray an image of Cuba as an island of happy people. If the Rolling Stones don’t talk about what is going on here [in terms of human rights violations], then they are indirectly serving as collaborators with the Cuban tyranny.” Gorki says.
There’s definitely two perspectives of looking at the Rolling Stone’s trip to Cuba. However, it certainly does serve as an advocate for change. This in general symbolises the beginning of a new era where the people of Cuba get the freedom to follow their dreams, express their opinions… and ROCK OUT!